The Goa Forest Warriors: Community Action stops destruction of indigenous forest

When the Forest Department of Goa started destroying the natural forests, the local tribal communities united to protect the forest and succeeded. See the extraordinary story of Goa’s forest warriors.

Environmentally conscious citizens of the Cancona forest live in with the nature – borrowing its produce carefully for their cattle fodder, age-old herbal cures and livelihood. When the Goan forest department decided to replace these indigenous trees with foreign trees to increase forest cover, the locals were horrified and angered at the mindless decision which eventually saw 1.1 local saplings being cut and replaced at the expense of Rs 54 lacs (US Dollar 79752) of public money. “Our forests were being replaced with unknown trees which were useless as fodder or for our ancient medicinal potions. These trees were also creating a mono-culture environment, killing the indigenous plants,” says ____ who along with our Community Correspondent Devidas Goenkar was in the forefront of the community movement.

Devidas captured the anguish of the people along with opinions of experts and formed an association called Jungle Bachao Samiti (Save the Jungle Association). The committee used the video to explain the problem at hand in villages, colleges and politician’s offices, and even put out an Right to Information (RTI) application to know why and how much was the government spending on the mindless move. When the Forest Department of Goa started destroying the natural forests, the local tribal communities united to protect the forest and succeeded. See the extraordinary story of Goa’s forest warriors. After fighting the forest department’s decision for 1.5 years, the community won and had their demands fulfilled. the government finally decided not to sow foreign plants in the forest and stick to the indegenous trees. For those who want to protect the forests across India, there’s a lesson here.

How do relatively few indigenous people manage to keep a check on a government forest department? Legal protections and scientifically backed reasons are part of the answer: Threatened by lumbering of the department in their forests, the Cancona residents took legal steps such as RTI and a public petition. Community-backed protests and demonstrations, media coverage and support of the scientific community made the victory possible.

 

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